Tuesday, March 31, 2009


It's been twenty years since I was last in Cardiff, so it was interesting to walk through the downtown area from my hotel to the conference site. What used to be the main shopping street has changed drastically--not for the better. The shopping area is now mainly new and a big car-free area of streets and alleys.

As I neared City Hall, the venue for the conference, there were signs on lamp-posts directing people to the IATEFL conference--bilingual signs (English and Welsh). There's been a big surge in the Welsh language--you notice that immediately you arrive. The sign at the railway station says "Cardiff" and "Caerdydd". Street signs are also in both languages. In Cardiff, however, there is a real mixture of Welsh and English accents, and if you don'tknow any Welsh, there's no problem. Everyone does speak English.

City Hall is a beautiful and impressive venue. There is a park with spring flowers blooming profusely, and Cardiff Castle is just across the road. I picked up my conference package--environmentally friendly bags are all in hemp here--and headed back to the hotel to peruse the "book".


I took the bus link from Heathrow airport to Reading to get the train to Cardiff. When I left Edmonton, there was still a blanket of snow on the ground, so seeing green grass, daisies flowering in that grass, daffodils everywhere, blossom on trees, and the leaves beginning to appear on trees was really nice--instant spring.
Whenever I return to Britain, there's a mixture of familiarity yet foreignness. I left here for Canada forty years ago, so of course, things have changed. But there are the same row houses, narrow streets, and everything seeming so small after Canada.
Yet those row houses that used to have a little pocket handkerchief of lawn in front of them, now have a gravel or paved front for car parking. Also the types of shops have changed and the families that owned those little businesses have changed. Now there are all the Chinese and Indian take-away restaurants, and similarly the people walking the streets have changed. Outside of the major cities, there previously wasn't much evidence of multi-ethnicities; as elsewhere in the world, there is now an eclectic mix people from around the world.

The ubiquitous pubs are still there, a real symbol of Britain. The sun is shining--so far so good.